Nathan Stupar is the latest in a long, long line of linebackers from Penn State who appears headed for a career in the NFL.
Stupar's path was not an easy, or obvious, one. He did not start full-time for the Nittany Lions until an injury opened the door in the 2011 season. In some ways, that makes him the classic definition of a draft sleeper.
"I would consider myself as a sleeper. ... When I got my opportunity I showed what I can do. I helped the defense, called the plays, called the adjustments ... played pretty dang well this year, and being invited to the national combine proved that," Stupar said during a recent interview.
Stupar has a family connection to the New York Giants. His uncle is former New York Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler. Stupar's brother, Jonathan, is a tight end who played for the Buffalo Bills in 2009 and 2010, catching 18 passes in 30 games.
Stupar is a 6-foot-1, 241-pound outside linebacker who reports indicate is best suited as a WILL or nickel linebacker and special teams player at the NFL level. He blocked two punts for Penn State during his career there. Present indications are that he would likely be a third-day selection in the draft this April.
"I'll play whatever they want me to play. If they want in middle I'll play middle, I'll learn it. Put me outside I'll succeed at that. Put me on special teams, I did that my first two years at Penn State. ... I love doing that stuff," Stupar said. "My best game is probably my pass coverage skills. I'm a guy who hustles, give you 110 percent every time. I'm not a guy who when the ball goes away just looks at it. I run it down."
Stupar showcased his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine by clocking the fastest three-cone drill time among all linebackers, a 6.84. He was also fourth among linebackers at the Combine with an 11.64 time in the 60-yard shuttle.
"I thought I did very well in the Combine."
Stupar said he would like to improve his 40 time of 4.78 at Penn State's Pro Day on March 14.
Below are comments about Stupar from a variety of scouting reports.
Walter Football said Stupar was a "reliable player" for the Nittany Lions in 2011 and also calls him "an intelligent blue-collar type of football player."
"Like many PSU linebacker alums, Stupar is a competitive, technically sound player who should be able to contribute in some capacity for an NFL team early on. He will be a strong special teams candidate and could push to make a roster as a backup."
From Gino's Draft Talk:
"Stupar only started seven games in his career, as a senior following an injury, but he had extensive playing time as part of a rotation of linebackers as a junior and senior. Stupar was the nickel linebacker for much of his career and has experience dropping into coverage and blitzing. He improved every season and was good enough to catch NFL scouts eyes with a combine invite. Stupar is best suited to play weakside linebacker in a 4-3 in the NFL. At worst, he should be a core special teams player and solid backup/nickel linebacker in the NFL but if he continues to improve, he has the natural skills and athleticism to develop into a starter in the NFL."
Nathan Stupar Profile
School: Penn State
40 time: 4.78
2011 Stats: 80 tackles (5.5 for loss), 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 5 passes defensed